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Wagner rebels have exposed Russia's weaknesses

An attempted uprising in the land of perpetual frost has failed. For now.

Yevgeny Prigozhin is a true soldier of fortune. Over the years, he has gained not only wealth but also a certain mindset from his time in Africa. That's why when he realised that he risked losing his private army he decided to go all-in.

How well planned was the uprising? I believe he began planning it immediately after the Ministry of Defence’s decision and he made the final decision after Putin's meeting with military commanders.

What were his goals? There were minimum and maximum goals. The minimum goal was to secure funds and preserve his private military company (PMC). The maximum goal was to seize power in Russia. I'm confident he also calculated this aspect thoroughly, given his extensive media work, focussed on creating an image of a Russian-specific Robin Hood. Remember that Prigozhin’s Wagner Group is not only a PMC but also a media conglomerate. In the 21st century, large-scale piracy requires a media component.

What happened behind the scenes? What transpired publicly was witnessed by the whole world. It was the first Telegram uprising in history. But it's evident that intensive negotiations were also taking place during those 24 hours. I'm sure Putin's morning address was delayed because he was waiting for Prigozhin's response to his proposition.

And here's the interesting part. It seems that after easily taking over Rostov, sensing the fear and confusion among Russian generals, the complete impotence of the FSB and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Prigozhin felt the thrill and decided to aim for the sky. The first military successes and the scent of blood intoxicated him even more. The decisive time period was between 12pm and 6pm.

If at that moment a portion of the Russian elite had pledged allegiance to him, we would now have Yevgeniy Viktorovich instead of Vladimir Vladimirovich. But it didn't happen. Most of the elite establishment fell into paralysis, some started to flee, but enough rallied around Putin. They chose the familiar devil out of fear of the unknown.

Most of the elite establishment fell into paralysis Quote

Meanwhile, a new round of negotiations began, this time mediated by Lukashenko. That's why the miracle happened when the Prigozhin column, comprising several thousand people, approached Moscow without being attacked and facing minimal obstacles.

During this time, Putin feverishly rallied loyal forces around Moscow and tried to reach an agreement with Prigozhin. At his Rubicon, Prigozhin hesitated. A battle near Moscow would have settled everything. If the Wagner column had been stopped and destroyed, Prigozhin's end would have been inevitable.

For a while, he could have held his ground in Rostov (instead of the Fake Dmitry, it would have been the "Rostov" one), but it would have been agonising. Prigozhin got scared, he lost his nerve. He chose the easy route - money. Now, in his convoy from under Moscow, he is carrying away his tribute.

What does it mean for us? Of course, it's a pity that Prigozhin didn't have the courage to see it through. It could have ended the invasion of Ukraine.

If Prigozhin had won, he would have had to fight for control in the largest country in the world. He personally wouldn't have cared about Ukraine, I'm sure. There are no diamonds here, but there are the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Prigozhin clearly would prefer to fight the Russian army than Ukraine. 

If Putin had won at Moscow, he would have had to spend weeks ferreting out Prigozhin and the Wagner forces from Rostov. It would have been a unique opportunity for the Ukrainian Armed Forces to defeat the remainder of the occupying force in Ukraine.

Within a day, Russia has become significantly weaker. The six destroyed aircraft matter, but the clear demonstrable weaknesses that this affair has brought to light is more significant. The Russian colossus has feet of clay. So, we need to stay strong.

What comes next? It will be interesting. The taboo has been lifted. The Time of Troubles in Russia has begun again. Or in more modern terms - Putin is the Mad King and the Game of Thrones has begun in earnest.

Oleksiy Goncharenko

Oleksiy Goncharenko is the MP for Odesa, Ukraine and the founder of the Ukrainian network of educational and cultural centres — the Goncharenko Centre.

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